Run of defeats and cup exits show Solskjaer has big rebuild ahead of him at Man United

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had an incredible start when took over as Manchester United caretaker boss.

However, the reality of the squad he has inherited has started to bite since the thrilling 3-1 win over Paris Saint-Germain that sparked him being given the job permanently.

Two of the five defeats since have come against Barcelona but Solskjaer clearly has a rebuilding job ahead of him, and admitted as much after Tuesday night’s 3-0 loss at the Camp Nou.

Here, Press Association Sport looks at the tough run of results since the unexpected Paris triumph.

Arsenal 2 Manchester United 0, Premier League, March 10

Solskjaer suffered his first defeat in the Premier League, with David De Gea at fault for Granit Xhaka’s opening goal.

Wolves 2 Manchester United 1, FA Cup, March 16

United were well below-par as they missed the opportunity to reach the semi-finals. Marcus Rashford’s late consolation goal was barely deserved and afterwards Solskjaer called it the “poorest performance” during his spell in charge.

Manchester United 2 Watford 1, Premier League, March 30

Solskjaer was made to sweat for his first win as permanent manager as sluggish United rode their luck and were outplayed for large parts of the match.

Wolves 2 Manchester United 1, Premier League, April 2

United took an early lead through Scott McTominay’s strike and played well until Diogo Jota’s 25th-minute equaliser. Solskjaer’s team still threatened after Ashley Young’s 57th-minute red card but slipped to a second defeat at Molineux in the space of 17 days.

Manchester United 0 Barcelona 1, Champions League, April 10

Barcelona were not at their best but were still good enough to beat United. Luke Shaw’s own goal proved the difference but Solskjaer’s side did not even manage a shot on target.

Manchester United 2 West Ham 1, Premier League, April 13

Solskjaer’s stuttering side managed a fortuitous win courtesy of a couple of Paul Pogba penalties. The decisive spot-kick 10 minutes from time came against the run of play as West Ham dominated and looked the most likely to win the match.

Barcelona 3 United 0, Champions League, April 16

United were unable to reproduce another improbably comeback like the one in Paris, despite starting well and causing Barcelona problems. However, a quick first-half double from Lionel Messi killed the tie and Solskjaer’s side were outclassed thereafter.

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David De Gea hands Barcelona initiative and Ashley Young past sell-by date for Man United

Andy West 17/04/2019
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Barcelona advanced to the Champions League semi-final by surviving an early scare to claim a 3-0 victory (4-0 on aggregate) over Manchester United at the Camp Nou.

You-know-who was the star with the first two goals, one of which was aided by a disastrous defensive clanger.

Find out how all the players rated here:

De Gea 4. Made a howler for Messi’s second goal. Partially made amends with a fine stop from Roberto but it was too late.

Lindelof 5. Had his hands full with Alba and Coutinho and couldn’t always contain them. Rarely got forward.

Smalling 7. Defended with pace and anticipation to contain Suarez and prevent further damage. Probably United’s best player.

Jones 5. Made some solid defensive interventions but was regularly tormented by Messi, including the second goal.

Young 4. Should have done more to stop Messi’s opener and his night didn’t get any better, looking past his sell-by date.

McTominay 7. Squandered a great early chance by miscontrolling, but otherwise a solid display with some robust challenges.

Fred 6. Put himself about in the centre of the field and kept things tidy, but was beaten by Messi for both goals.

Pogba 5. Good early pass to release Rashford and tried his luck with a couple of hopeful long-range shots but offered little else.

Rashford 6. Hit the bar after 35 seconds and scuffed another shot. Always a threat with his pace but lacked end product.

Lingard 5. Playing in the middle, he posed little danger except a long-range shot narrowly over the top just before being replaced.

Martial 5. Showed plenty of pace down the left early on but soon faded and was replaced by Dalot just after the hour.

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Dalot 6. Came on for Martial and tried to get forward down the right, nearly creating a goal for Sanchez.

Lukaku 5. Added a more physical presence to the forward line towards the end but had little impact with the game gone.

Sanchez 6. Received a warm reception from fans of his old club and drew a fine save from Ter Stegen with a header.

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Anything possible but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer tones down significance of 1999 Champions League final

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer attempted to tone down the significance of the 1999 Champions League final but the Manchester United manager feels the fixture proved anything is possible in football.

Solskjaer claimed a special place in the hearts of United supporters 20 years ago when his last-gasp strike against Bayern Munich at the Camp Nou sealed an unforgettable treble.

Now the club’s manager, the Norwegian returned to the ground on Monday as his side bid to overturn a 1-0 deficit in the return leg of their Champions League quarter-final in Barcelona.

Yet Solskjaer refused to dwell too much on the past and is fully focused on the task at hand, urging his side to believe they can prevail against the Spanish champions on Tuesday night.

He said: “Of course it’s a fantastic memory for me. It’s the only time I’ve been on the pitch, but I don’t really look back on that night too often.

“My job now is to make us play better than in the first game.

“I was a player back then. In football anything can happen at any time and we know that we can still be in this tie.

Solskjaer celebrates his memorable winner in 99.

Solskjaer celebrates his memorable winner in 99.

“It’s about the quality though. We need to defend well but going forward we need to score. If we keep a clean sheet, we can still be in the tie in the 93rd minute.”

Solskjaer thinks his players should be emboldened by their fightback against Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16.

Following a 2-0 loss at Old Trafford, United responded in spectacular fashion with a 3-1 victory at the Parc des Princes to progress on away goals last month.

Solskjaer recognises the abilities of a Barcelona side who have won four European Cups since 2006 but remains in a bullish mood.

He said: “That memory from PSG will help the players, will help us as a team. We know we can turn things round.

“Of course Barcelona here at the Camp Nou is a difficult prospect but the memory from that night will live with the players.

“It’s not that long ago and we’re one goal better off.”

Alexis Sanchez was among United’s 22-man travelling contingent and is in contention to make a return against his former club after six weeks on the sidelines because of a knee injury.

The Chilean, who scored 47 times in 141 appearances during three seasons with Barca between 2011 and 2014, has endured a largely miserable time at United as a haul of five goals in 41 games would suggest.

Solskjaer said: “For Alexis it’s a big night and when he’s on the pitch I’m sure he wants to prove a point.

“He wants to prove a point for us as well. He’s been injured, he’s not had a fantastic season so far and let’s hope he can end the season great for us.

“We are in the business end of the season, we’re playing games that Man United are used to playing.

“Let’s hope Alexis can be happy with his performance when he is on the pitch.”

Solskjaer reaffirmed his belief that Paul Pogba will remain at United beyond the end of the season after the Spanish media questioned speculation linking the Frenchman with a summer move to Real Madrid.

Solskjaer added: “Paul’s focus is on Man United and performing here.

“He has been fantastic since I’ve come here and I’ve no doubt that he will perform for Man United as he has done lately.

“I don’t think they (the fans) should worry too much.”

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